Sunday, August 10, 2008

Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt Praises Recent Signings - Striker Unlikely To Make Hamburg Move

Amid a cloud of rumours of his possible exit from the club, Liverpool Kuyt has come forward to praise Rafael Benitez’s summer signings.

The Reds have included five new faces to the team so far in the season, namely Republic of Ireland striker Robbie Keane, David N’Gog from P.S.G, Andrea Dossena from Udinese, plus Phillip Degen and goalkeeper Diego Cavalieri.

Kuyt, who has been linked with a move away from Anfield to SV Hamburg, which is now coached by former Tottenham Hotspur boss Martin Jol, is now expected to stay at Liverpool for the coming season.

28-year-old Kuyt is excited about the coming Premier League season, saying to the official Liverpool website: "The new players have come in and all done well.

"It is always good to have a few new faces in the group and hopefully we have made them feel welcome also. Sometimes you only need a few changes to make a big difference and hopefully the players who have been signed will help us achieve that.

"We already had a really strong team and now we have added to what we had so that can only be a good thing", added the Dutch international striker.

Xabi Alonso Could Still Be Sold Says Rafa Benitez

Rafael Benitez is still refusing to rule out the possibility that he could sell Xabi Alonso - despite the astonishing support the midfielder has received from Liverpool fans.

But the Anfield boss, who also insists that “Liverpool are ready for the Champions League” next week, maintains Alonso will only leave now if the club receives a massive offer for his services.

Benitez is still embroiled in the Gareth Barry saga, despite failing to receive financial backing from the club’s American owners and their support for the £18million transfer.

And he clearly needs money to continue his stubborn pursuit of the Aston Villa midfielder just a week away from the Premier League opening weekend.

Benitez also acknowledges the clear support for Alonso from the Liverpool fans, and their obvious distaste for the Barry deal voiced during last night’s 1-0 friendly win over Lazio at Anfield.

But not even that reaction from the fans will make Benitez confirm that Alonso will not be sold.

Benitez said: “We knew Alonso was a very good player and as a result he had a good price (on his head). We had offers, but they were not enough so we decided he needed to stay with us.

“It could be that he does stay with us.

“For me it is not a problem if he stays or not. He can stay, we always have felt he is a good player.

“We are only talking about a very, very good price. He is a good player, if he is not going to bring a good price then it is very simple, easy to understand.

“I heard the crowd, obviously. We know now, as we knew before, that he could stay with us.”

Andriy Voronin’s winner against the Italians could also be his last for the club, because Benitez clearly is looking to sell to fund the Barry deal.

It comes as no surprise to anyone who has followed the saga of the Americans’ ownership to discover that money is not readily available and new objections to a deal are being placed on Benitez at a very late stage of negotiations.

He added: “It is not positive that we may not have the players we want here before the Champions League game. But the transfer window closes at the end of August, we will try to do our best to bring in the players to improve us by then.

“I try to do the best for my club with the possibilities that you have, I have done this every since I have been here. And I am trying to do the same for this coming season.

“I do not feel any more pressure, every season is the same. We have a good squad, better than before, but we can improve a little bit more.”

Benitez obviously intends to continue his master-plan to recruit Barry, who he sees as a player who can fill three different roles. Barry can play central midfield, left side of midfield or left-back.

The 28-year-old will probably not be there in Belgium next Wednesday for the Champions League third qualifying round first leg against Standard Liege.

But after seeing his squad stay unbeaten in eight pre-season friendlies, Benitez believes they are ready for the demands of making sure Liverpool reach the Champions League group stages.

He said: “More or less the side that played against Lazio will be the one that plays in the Champions League on Wednesday in Belgium.

“Most of the senior players were involved, this will be the side that plays against Standard Liege.

“The situation has been very difficult for us, we have had a lot of players returning to training late after international games in the summer and now we have players at the Olympics.

“It has given me a chance to see the young players during pre-season, and I am sure that the future of the club is guaranteed.

“I believe we are ready for the Champions League tie, the experienced players are ready. But we know that we have quality from the young players.

“I have not decided whether any more will go out on loan, it depends on whether we sell anyone else. If we do not bring anyone else in, maybe we do not need to add anyone or loan any of the youngsters.”

Benitez now will determinedly continue his chase for Barry, with the risk that he could find himself again at loggerheads with Liverpool’s owners.

Last time that happened his outbursts almost cost him his job. This time around he is more aware of how far he can go with any defiance. But he still wants Barry.

Tellingly, Benitez said after the Lazio game: “(This deal) is not about money.

“We have a good player(Alonso) and we have another good player coming in soon.

“We can improve the squad, so we will try to do that. We will bring in one more player if we can.

“Who comes in? It could be another left-sided player rather than a central midfielder.

“The player I want can play in three different positions, that is a positive thing. I am talking about one player, but I won’t say the name.

“He is English and he can three different positions, but I am talking about someone who can play on the left.”

Finnan Finished At Anfield?

Steve Finnan's future at Liverpool hangs in the balance following a reported row with manager Rafael Benitez.

News of the World claims that Finnan was omitted from the Reds' pre-season trip to Norway after exchanging less-than-friendly words with Benitez regarding his status at the club.

The Irish defender is something of a forgotten man at Anfield despite being considered one of the most consistent full-backs in Europe up until last season, when his campaign was ruined by injury and indifferent form.

Finnan was offered to Aston Villa as part of the Merseyside club's bid for Gareth Barry - a proposal that did not please the 32-year-old one little bit.

For although he now faces stiff competition from Alvaro Arbeloa, Philipp Degen and even Jamie Carragher for the right-back slot, the former Fulham man is eager to regain the place he once owned in Liverpool's starting XI.

Age is not on Finnan's side, however, and nor is Benitez's focus on attack-minded wide defenders, as the ex-Notts County man has often been criticised for his sometimes cautious approach.

And with the list of suitors appearing short indeed, the Champions League-winner may be doomed to a season of bench-warming unless he can patch things up with his boss.

Silva Lining For Furious Rafa?

In an attempt to placate manager Rafael Benitez, Liverpool's owners have reportedly authorised an £18million move for Valencia star David Silva.

Benitez is livid with Tom Hicks and George Gillett after the Reds co-owners vetoed an £18million deal for Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry.

The Americans' decision has strained their relationship with the Spanish tactician to breaking point, as it has recently been revealed that their reason for blocking the buy is not a financial one.

For it is believed Hicks and Gillett have sided with the Kopites' view - which was voiced strongly during the club's recent friendly against Lazio - that there is no need for Barry when Xabi Alonso is already at Anfield.

Such a line suggests that the owners have doubts over Benitez's judgement - an insinuation that has understandably ignited the manager's wrath.

But according to News of the World, a compromise has been put forth in the form of Silva, who was near the very top of Rafa's wish-list earlier in the summer.

One of the reasons Benitez has been hell-bent on signing Barry is the England international's left-sidedness and versatility, something the Merseyside giants have lacked in midfield over the last few years.

Indeed, the former Valencia boss highlighted his concerns regarding the left flank after the win against Lazio, as Ryan Babel is currently at the Olympics and Sebastian Leto has been loaned to Olympiacos after being denied a work permit.

Therefore, Benitez will likely have little issue raiding his old club for the left-footed Silva, who can play all across the attacking third.

Liverpool will not waltz in unopposed, however, as North West rivals Manchester United have supoosedly joined Barcelona in the tango for the 22-year-old.

Dalglish Delighted With Keane Signing

Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish has lauded the signing of Robbie Keane and believes his versatility will be an asset to the Reds' attack ahead of the new season.

Keane signed from Tottenham Hotspur for an initial £18 million, a fee criticised by many, though his quality has been hailed as well and it is expected he will be what Liverpool need to push on and mount a genuine Premier League challenge.

Liverpool striking legend compared Keane to Dalglish, who himself is confident Keane has what it takes to be a success at Anfield: “Robbie is one of those players who can come in straight away and hit the ground running.

“He has played all his career in the Premier League with a one-year spell in Italy, so he doesn't need to take any time to settle in.

“He can make an impact from the first whistle. There is no getting used to the speed of the game or anything like that.

“All he has to do is get to know the boys and tune in to their games, where they like to make runs, where they are going to want him to run to and so on.

“He will give the manager plenty of options in the striking positions. He can play straight through the middle as a partner for shoulder to shoulder.

“Or you can withdraw him slightly from Fernando and play him in the hole between the strikers and midfield.

“He will be effective in either role. You only have to look at how he fitted and moulded his game around Dimitar Berbatov at Tottenham to see the potential that he and Torres have as a pairing.

“Berbatov scored a lot of goals from direct final passes from Keane, or from his movement and ability to create space.

“And when Keane gets into position himself in front of goal, he can finish as well as anyone.

“Torres is maybe just a step above Berbatov because he is a lot younger so you have to be licking your lips at the prospect of them being unleashed on the Premier League.”

Liverpool chief executive Parry Says Aston Villa's Barry Price 'Too High'

Liverpool's quest to sign Gareth Barry has taken another twist after the club's chief executive Rick Parry admitted that "the price quoted is too high". Parry's comments appear to contradict those made by manager Rafael Benítez after the Spaniard claimed that money was not the issue.

The Aston Villa midfielder was identified as a summer transfer target by Benítez but the two sides have so far been unable to agree a fee. Last month the Midlands club announced that the deal was off after Liverpool missed a deadline to submit an acceptable offer. However, just days later Martin O'Neill was forced to concede that Barry could still leave Villa Park before the transfer deadline at the end of August.

In an official statement on the club's website, Parry insisted that Benítez has the backing of owners, George Gillett and Tom Hicks "There has been a lot of comment regarding our position with regards to Gareth Barry," he said. "This is not about questioning the manager's judgment or the ability of a particular player. The owners have clearly demonstrated throughout the year they are willing to back Rafa in the transfer market and will continue to do so.

"It is obviously the selling club's prerogative to put whatever price they want on the player, but on this occasion Liverpool think the price quoted is too high."